Have you ever felt watched on foggy days? Have you ever thought something terrible lurked in the mist, waiting to catch you off-guard? Fog muffles sound, obscures sight, turns the world as we know into something unfamiliar and alien. Some of our worst nightmares can be made manifest and can stalk us without our knowledge.
Jesus, it's cold! I remember thinking when I first stepped from the house. The little gray terrier beside me paid the biting chill no mind. He snuffled at the naked, bristling stalks of his favorite bush and promptly marked his turf, panting happily. Probably should've brought gloves, I thought grudgingly, warming my hands with my breath. I tugged on the terrier's leash and began to walk.
The fog in the apartment lot was pressing and thick, and it swarmed about me in a whirling haze of white. The grass crunched beneath my feet, while mud squelched and sucked at my boots. Charlie and I followed an old sidewalk, me trying to keep my breath from fogging my glasses, Charlie roaming around for the next engaging scent. The street beside the sidewalk was ominously quiet; the fog masked the approach of any car that might be turning along the roadway.
I called Charlie close, and together we turned from the old path to head into the park. I could hardly see the parking lot, with all the mist. It made me nervous at first; ironically, I hated sharing the park, and I couldn't tell whether anyone had intruded on my favorite place. Thankfully, the lot was empty, as I gradually began to make it out. We entered the park, and I stopped and listened. Charlie's collar twinkled strangely in the muffling fog as he ranged on ahead. I let him go, knowing he wouldn't wander too far. The wall of mist swallowed up his little gray frame, and I was left alone.
It was deathly quiet; everything was still. The fog smelled rank and alien, too sweet to be rain-smell, and airy enough to make my head ache and spin. I pulled up my scarf, preferring my own morning breath rather than suffer the fog's scent any longer. I trudged on, calling for Charlie. My voice reflected back at me, hollow. I didn't hear his collar twinkling in response. With an annoyed sigh, I set off to find him.
Dog-smell, faint, big. The terrier wrinkled his nose at the gnarly base of a tree, the fur along his shoulders bristling as he scented the marking of another dog. Defiantly, he placed his own marker and dusted the tree roots with a helping of damp earth and slimy, wet leaves. Satisfied, he continued with his circumspection of the park grounds, glad to be free of the leash.
He wandered across the field, the wet grass tracing his fur with glistening stripes. His paws and belly were already soaked, and he was beginning to feel the cold. Vaguely, he wondered where GIRL had gone. Charlie thought he'd heard her call, but after nosing around the trees and grass, he'd surely have forgotten if she had.
GIRL will call again, no yelling yet. Charlie couldn't see far in the fog, but he sensed her blundering about in the park. On little, pattering feet, the terrier followed the smell of the lake. The trail down to it was steep, slick, and muddy, and he hated the feel of the goop on his legs, but he didn't stop. Charlie liked the lake. He could walk right up to it and listen to the waves slosh against the banks, frothing and choked with twigs and branches.
As he came upon the shore, the familiar swooshing and lapping filled his ears. On a warm summer day, Charlie recalled, he could see the sun striking off the lake's surface in a blinding sheen of light, and could smell the enticing scent trails left by animals who would come for a quick drink.
Winter was upon them now; all he could smell presently was the rancid mud and fog. Beyond the shore, the lake was obscured by a dense curtain of mist. The water was a deep gray, the waves white-capped. Droplets sprayed his fur, and he shivered. Perhaps the excursion to the lake hadn't been an especially great idea. Charlie was turning to search for GIRL when a curious humming froze him midstep. It sang deep in his stomach and ears, setting his body trembling. He swung back to the water and scanned the desolate shoreline of mud and litter and pebbles.
The humming turned into a drone, a dark and powerful sound that Charlie felt more than heard. It was in his bones, his nose, his mind. It called to him, out from within the water. He shrank, powerless, against the cold mud, the urine running out of him. Fear turned his blood to ice. The slopping rhythm of the water suddenly changed. Interspersed with it was the slow and steady sound of something pushing through the waves. The water parted, the hum roaring louder. Charlie couldn't move.
The shape that appeared from the fog was far larger than him, but he couldn't yet make out any distinctive features. Suddenly, a deathly pale foot emerged, stark against the brown mud. Blue veins bulged against the white flesh, and the foot itself boasted long, black claws. Charlie watched motionlessly, horrified yet captivated. Looks like…a paw, like own feet. The water churned as the second paw became visible, sporting equally blue veins and frightening claws.
The creature dragged itself forward, and Charlie managed to make out a strange, hostile face. In a vague, instinctive sense, Charlie recognized that it was a being that somehow resembled himself. The muzzle was blunt, the ears long and wide, and there was the tiniest mole on its cheek, just below the upper jaw. But there was nothing similar about the vicious yellow eyes, the bared teeth, nor the pale, veined skin. Along its spine rose tall, hideous white spikes, bristling to full extent. It was so grotesquely gaunt that Charlie could clearly see where they sprung from the spine itself. Its shoulders were hunched unnaturally, making the spikes appear even taller, and its legs, as the beast cleared the water and reached the shore, were oddly short and stunted.
Under different circumstances, its appalling appearance might almost be comical, but Charlie felt no humor in observing it. The creature stalked up the shore to him with a menacing certainty, water running smoothly from its hairless hide. Charlie suddenly realized the humming had stopped; somehow, the silence seemed even more threatening. The creature loomed over the little terrier impassively, its round yellow eyes glowing through the fog. The bristling spikes relaxed some, almost flattening against its spine. Charlie could hear its teeth clicking.
That was GIRL, further up the slope that led to the lakeshore. The creature's head snapped up, and its pale lips peeled back to reveal razor-sharp fangs. A guttural hiss slipped between the long, gleaming teeth. Yet instead of attacking, it began backing away, receding into the blue-gray waves and thick wall of fog. Before it could turn away, its strange golden gaze found Charlie's eyes once more. One day soon, we will come, it whispered to him, wordlessly. Its bodiless voice rumbled deep within the little dog. One day, we all will come. And it left.
Charlie was still standing there, petrified, on the cold bank when GIRL arrived behind him, bringing with her an angry yet relieved air of annoyance. He felt her clip the leash back onto him, but he didn't take his eyes from the heaving lake until he was wrenched away with an impatient tug. On numb paws, Charlie followed his master home.
He knew for a certainty that he would never visit that lake again.